Before any budgets can be created, there has to be a marketing plan in place. The cost in time and energy to create the marketing plan will pay for itself. Hiring a marketing professional to help develop a plan is something you may want to consider. Too many times small businesses work without a plan and needlessly spend money on “marketing” efforts that have absolutely no return on investment. You need to have a clear vision of what your marketing strategy is and a set of marketing activities that will raise visibility and generate demand.
Another area of your marketing efforts that would need to be budgeted for includes your sales tools. Examples of sales tools are your Web site, business cards, letterhead, brochures, flyers and other collateral materials needed to fulfill your sales goals. The most cost-effective thing to do is work with a design professional to create a branding package. Service packages will help you manage your budget by knowing upfront exactly what everything will cost.
If your company has the need for many sales tools, then a way to control costs is to create components as you go, but it is advisable that you not cut corners on the design or quality of the tools. Cutting corners on sales tools creates an image of being small and unprofessional to your prospects.
After your logo has been created, then start with business cards, then your Web site and a brochure.
Most businesses can benefit from a highly professional, quality Web site. Be sure you understand the importance of your Web site to your business and the impact it can have on your revenue before you determine the budget. If your primary marketing effort is Internet marketing, you really should consider putting a few more dollars into your Web site and have it developed professionally.
This rule also holds true for your other marketing materials. I heard a quote once from marketing professional that may be harsh but is 100 percent true. “The only way to keep your brochure out of the trash is to have it professionally designed.” Just take a moment to think about that. How many times have you gotten some kind of marketing piece and threw it out because it was not visually appealing, not well written or looked like it came off of an inkjet printer? You formed an opinion about that company in two seconds and decided it was unworthy of your business. You don’t want to be that company.
Working with a design professional can actually save you money. Industry professionals have many contacts for printing, hosting, PR and other services and often can negotiate better pricing because they represent many clients to one vendor. Also, if having a brochure, Web site, ad, postcard, etc., actually entices people to call and do business with you then the investment is well worth it.
If you are a new business or even an established business wanting to make 2011 your most successful year, you will likely need to put effort towards creating your company brand. Developing your brand image is more than just getting a logo to call your own. However a well-designed logo will be the centerpiece for your branding efforts. Your brand images will be the key components of your marketing efforts, so be sure you work with a design professional to create something that you can use for many years to come. This is not something that changes monthly or as often as the whim strikes.
After deciding on corporate branding issues, determining the appropriate sales or marketing support tools, the next step is to determine what programs you are going to execute. All promotional activities fall within the eight categories:
- Direct Marketing
- Internet Marketing
- Social Media
- Public Relations
- Word of Mouth
- Strategic Partnerships
To identify what programs are the best for your business, you might want to begin by seeing what others—in your industry, as well as outside your industry—are doing. However, don’t get caught up in “copycat marketing.” What others do may not be right for you, and part of why you put a marketing plan together is to differentiate yourself from others, but it is a good start to look at their activities for guidance on where you should invest your dollars.
Once you have established your plan keep in mind that you don’t need to do all the activities at once. Plan them out over the year so you can budget for them and measure their effectiveness. If you have too many things going on at once, you won’t be able to keep track and measure.
Understanding the return on investment on a marketing activity enables you to determine whether to keep it running or stop it and try something else.
Establishing an annual marketing budget helps you identify the money your business has to invest in its marketing activities. Managed properly, your marketing budget is the best investment you can make in your company. If you wisely invest your marketing dollars, you can get a profitable return on your investment.